I had a hard, hard lesson in crisis communications last week. Thursday evening our data center at Fisher Plaza went ‘kerploop’. That’s the short hand for “a perfect storm of stupid design, a fire and really bad luck took out all power to one of Seattle’s primary data centers, shutting down two TV stations, a few radio stations, Authorize.net and several hundred other sites”.
You can read my timeline here, or read the media’s take on the whole mess here.
Among those several hundred sites were 20-30 of our clients. Suddenly, we had no ‘state of the art’ data center, they had no web sites, we had no fast way to get in touch with them, and we had no idea when they’d be back. The world (my world, at least) was suddenly a very uncertain place.
So, we had a few choices: We could run in circles, screaming incoherently; we could hold our breaths; or we could help our clients get the word out.
I tried option 1 and 2 first, but after the first 2 hours, I was exhausted and oxygen-deprived, so I moved on to 3.
Social media to the rescue
Any client who had a presence on Facebook, Twitter or another social media portal could immediately let folks know:
And, the moment the site was back (26 excruciating hours later), they could again send an update:
Other clients were able to use Twitter and LinkedIn to the same effect.
The lesson: Build your social media profile!
Yes, I hate the phrase ‘social media’. But you need the medium. Even if you can’t think of a single way to generate an ROI; can’t understand what the fuss is about; think all social media users are teenagers, you must build your presence.
- Put a link to your company’s Facebook fan page on every page of your web site. If you don’t have a fan page, create one. It takes about, oh, 3 minutes.
- Put a link to your company’s Twitter account on your site, too.
- If there’s a unique online community for your industry, create a presence there and link to that, too.
- In order confirmation e-mails, include those links.
- In presentations, include ’em, too.
Never mind the marketing potential. That one time you absolutely need a way to reach your audience, but can’t do it via your web site, your pre-made social media audience will be there, waiting for news.
That makes social media an ideal crisis communications tool.
I should also point out that the news media had no clue what was going on for the first 4-5 hours of the crisis. We finally figured out the problem by piecing together Twitter posts from other folks.